I’ve been trying to fix the sink in our master bathroom. (We call it the master bathroom, but it’s really my wife’s bathroom. If I want to use it I have to fill out three forms, write a two hundred word essay on why I need to use it instead of the other bathrooms and leave a ten dollar deposit that I forfeit if I leave the seat up. By the time I get all that done, all the while doing the pee-pee dance, I need to change my underwear not use the bathroom. It’s easier just to run down the street to the gas station.) My wife and I have an agreement: she breaks things and I fix them–it was in our wedding vows right after in sickness and in health.
When she breaks something, she’ll find me and we’ll go through a sort of ritual. She’ll say, “The shade in the bedroom is broken.” She never says I broke the shade. It’s like the shade broke itself, or the Devil was bored, had nothing to do, figured there was already enough turmoil in the Middle east and decided to break the shade in our bedroom. I’ll always ask, “Did you try to fix it?” She’ll try to keep from laughing as she nods yes, which means she looked at it and it didn’t jump back on the window, and then I’ll go fix the shade.
Over the years I have gotten good at fixing things but she’s gotten better at breaking them—she’s considering turning pro. She once burned out four magnetrons on a microwave oven before it was off warranty. The repairman (I don’t have to fix things if they’re still under warranty) said he’d never seen even one burn out in that short of time. My wife beamed with pride. I thought they should have given her some kind of award or at least a plaque commemorating the achievement.
I learned from my father that if you are going to fix things, fix them right, because he never did. It might have been because he had eight kids and something was always being broken. He couldn’t spend a lot of time making sure things were fixed right as other things broke around him. I’d tell him the bottom had fallen out of one of my dresser drawers. He’d grab some duct tape, chewing gum, stapler and a pack of Pall Malls and cobble the drawer together. When he finished, he’d stand back and say, “Now, when you open it you’ll have to lift it up because if the bottom of the drawer touches the dresser, it’ll break again.” So I’d put my clothes in a cardboard box and not use the dresser. The last three years I lived at home I never went through the front door, because you had to lift it the right way and jiggle the knob just right or it’d fall off the hinges. It was easier just to use the back door and walk around the house.